My Review On Playing Preschool

A few months back I purchased Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool book to do preschool with my daughter and a little neighbor friend. I wrote a little about the experience here. After a few months of working through the book, I want to write a review to help you decide if it’s the right decision for you. Before I begin, read more about what Playing Preschool entails here.

Pros: 

Lessons are easy to read and organized. Whether you’re an educator or not, there is plenty of information and resources to give you the most success possible. 

We had to take a few weeks off while I worked from home, but it was easy to pick back up again and get started. The lessons are evergreen and can be done at any time of the year. 

Most of the materials were found at home, but mostly because we’ve been doing toddler based activities for a year now. Even if you don’t have all of the materials at home, it’s a worthwhile investment because they are cheap and useful! I don’t know about you, but we go through a pack of construction paper really fast over here! 

Some weeks required more materials such as the cooking unit because we needed a lot of food, but again, nothing crazy expensive and worth the money for the outcome. I went through the supply list of every unit before we got started and made an Amazon Wishlist and shared it with our family members that often like to buy my kid’s gifts so that they would know the books and tools that would be extra useful to us right now! 

The activities do not take a lot of time to set up. I don’t think I ever spent more than two minutes gathering supplies and setting up an activity for the lessons. They are quick and practical! 

The lessons truly are playing. There are no worksheets to print out! It’s all activities to set up for your preschool to explore numbers and letters. There’s a lot of paint and a lot of play! A method I can get behind! 

Cons: 

I loved that each unit had a great book list that really worked hand in hand with each day, but we started Playing Preschool the same time quarantine began, meaning our library was closed! Without the resource of the library, it was so hard to find the specific books she recommended. I did my best to find substitutes (although her suggestions truly are the best books to use). I also tried the free trial of Vooks, but not a single book on the list was found there! You can read my Vooks review here. 

Another solution I found was to buy a few books on thirftbooks.com, they had great prices and free shipping after a certain amount spent! I couldn’t pass up an opportunity at buying new books! We also searched Kindle on Amazon for any free or cheap purchases. Those books obviously aren’t the same as holding a real book, but it did the job! 

The rest I put on my Amazon wishlist for our family members and we received many that way. I also called upon good friends and neighbors to borrow their books. With all efforts combined, I was able to get together all of our books! With access to a public library, this process would not be as difficult as it was for me, but I wanted to share my ideas for others who also may not have access to a library as well. 

The final downside is more on me than on the curriculum itself. I would feel like the entire unit was a failure if we skipped a day or even a single activity. I wanted to get everything in to make sure she understood the concepts being taught. In the introduction of Playing Preschool, Susie the creator of the curriculum explicitly says you do not have to do every activity and it does not have to all be done in one sitting. She suggestions spreading it out throughout the day or splitting it up into two sections if accomplishing everything in one sitting is too much for your preschooler. My type-A personality shone through a lot when I saw each activity as a checklist feeling like I needed to mark everything off. You do not need to do this to have success in the program. 

Overall, I truly have loved Playing Preschool and use it often with my daughter. Even if we are on a break from doing preschool, I can still pull it out and find one or two activities for her to do while I cook dinner or clean the house. It’s great exposure to letters and numbers. My 2.5-year-old has very little interest in her letters and even after a few weeks of playing preschool she can’t name a single letter or letter sound, but she’s still gaining that exposure and teaching her to have a love for learning and reading. Playing Preschool for the win! 

Have you done the Playing Preschool curriculum? Leave your pros and cons in the comments for others to see! 

Cover photo from busytoddler.com

The Power of Asking: Creating Classroom Resources

Being a teacher means one absolute- paying for your own supplies. It is no secret that there are teachers across the nation paying out of pocket for staplers, books, and more. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was a way we as teachers could find our own resources, but not pay out of pocket? What if I told you there is ONE simple way you could have access to copious amounts of supplies without spending a dime? Because there is a way, and it really can be simple. Here it is.

Ask. 

Asking for donations and supplies can be scary, scary enough that many don’t go this route. The way I like to look at it is, what is the worst that could happen? They tell you no? But let’s break it down- who do you ask, and how do you ask? 

Who- This comes with endless possibilities. Ask your principal, see what the school can offer you. Maybe they have staples and sticky notes and really cool classroom sets of books lying around that never get used because no one ever asked! 

Parents- Some parents may not want to contribute their time, money, or resources to your classroom, and that is fine! Others may not have the means do to so. That’s okay too. But there are also parents out there who can and will support you how you need, you may just need to ask. 

Friends and family- It might surprise you how willing people are to chip in a few dollars here or there to your classroom. Amazon Wishlists and DonorsChoose.org are great resources for sharing what your wants and needs are in a classroom, giving others the option to help fund and support those wants and needs. My dear friend Danielle Macias has been a great example of asking friends and family for support of her classrooms by sharing a donors choose platform when she has a need. She said,
   

“I’ve learned that social media, especially Twitter, can be a great platform to share any projects I may need help with. There are also many donors who are willing to help if you know whom to ask. I would advise teachers to familiarize themselves with Twitter hashtags like #clearthelist and join Donors Choose FB group. (Teachers need to make sure that it’s okay with their district.) I would also advise that teachers promote their donors to choose projects when there’s a promotion to increase their chances of getting funded.” 

Danielle was able to raise money to fund a classroom set of books and headphones. The options and possibilities can be endless if we do one simple thing- ask. 

How have you obtained classroom resources on a budget? 

My Teacher Values

*Deep breath.* I know I shared last spring that I am planning on returning to the classroom in 2020, but I have decided to start applying to return to the classroom this year. Many back-to-school events have already started, so at the moment I’m looking at last-minute positions that have opened up unexpectedly, with little to no classroom prep time before the kids are in school.

I have said many times that there will be many changes to my approach to teaching and learning when I return to the classroom–it’s hard to know where to even start! So I’m trying to mentally organize and distill the strategies, ideas, & priorities that have meant most to me over the years. Not only do I want be oriented for a potential quick jump back into a classroom, but I want to be articulate when interviewing with administrators about what matters most to me as a teacher. So here are a few stand-outs:

Lens of strengths over lens of deficit ~Lanny Ball

Writing and reading workshops for independent tinkering & exploration. Marina Rodriguez (& all the teachers over at Two Writing Teachers!)

Caring for students vs simply caring about them. ~Taryn BondClegg

Helping students start with their why. ~Taryn BondClegg (also Taryn’s Questions, Problems, Ideas board, which I like a lot better than my old suggestion box)

#ClassroomBookADay ~ Jillian Heise

Self Regulation ~Aviva Dunsinger, Christine Hertz

“I intend to…because…” by Marina Gijzen

Culture of agency ~ Edna Sackson

Culture of inquiry ~ Kath Murdoch

Soft Starts ~ Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski

Need for cultivating both reading skills and love of reading ~ Pernille Ripp

Holistic, integrated approaches to subjects ~ Anamaria Ralph

Learning through play ~ Kelsey Corter

I don’t know exactly what the future holds at this moment (keep in mind that this post is queued up and changes may happen before this actually publishes!) But I do know that, although I have missed being in the classroom over the last 5 years, I am profoundly grateful for the time I’ve had to read, learn, and discuss learning with teachers all over the world. They have been so generous with their own learning and strategies. A PLN is truly an incredible gift! Thank you to all here, and to many more not on this particular list!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into Attitudes: Integrity

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

This is the last post in this series! However, I hope it will continue to grow via comments as readers add their own ideas.

Most students go straight to honesty and moral uprightness when it comes to defining integrity. But I also really like the secondary definition,

“the state of being whole and undivided.”

So much to unpack and explore with this concept, especially for those teachers working to set the stage for a new school year.

Resource #1: Alike by Pepe School 

Resource #2: Bill Watterson: A Cartoonist’s Advice (comic by Zen Pencils featuring a speech by Bill Watterson)

by Zen Pencils, speech from Bill Watterson

Resource #3: Buster Keaton: Art of the Gag via The Kid Should See This (if you’re short on time, just watch 6:30-end)

Resource #4: Dove Real Beauty Sketches (at first I debated including this one, but the more I ponder, the more I think this kind of integrity to self is an essential part of the discussion).

Resource #5: Picture Books! (at first I thought about only including strong “moral of the story” books–and Strega Nona is one example of that–but then I thought about the many options that explore the concept of integrity with a bit more exploration, including with that idea of “being whole & undivided” (Extra Yarn) or even when honesty is a question up for debate (True Story of the 3 Little Pigs & This is Not My Hat).

Provocation Questions:

  • How does having integrity impact the lives of people around you?
  • How does having integrity impact your own life?
  • What are the different perspectives on what integrity means?
  • What responsibility to have integrity do we have for our communities? For ourselves?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into Attitudes: Tolerance

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

Sometimes it seems like our world today is overcome with notions of in-group/out-group. But what if we can help our students find their common ground? This week’s provocation is centered on the PYP attitude of tolerance, which involves “work[ing] towards feeling sensitivity towards differences and diversity in the world and being responsive to the needs of others.”

Resource #1: Us Vs Them: Immigration, Empathy, & Psychology via The Kid Should See This

Resource #2: Charter for Compassion by Ben Kaufman

Resource #3: Day & Night by Pixar

Resource #4: What is Public Life?

Resource #5: Most People by Michael Lennah & Jennifer E. Morris

Provocation Questions: 

  • What does it mean to have tolerance?
  • What is the connection between tolerance and empathy?
  • How does tolerance impact a diverse community? How does tolerance impact a community that seems alike?
  • What is our responsibility to cultivate tolerance?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into Skills: Social

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

As I come toward the end of sharing provocation resources for each of the PYP essential elements (just 3 to go!), I was surprised to realize that finding ones for social skills was tricky. But then I realized that was because I was looking at it as a whole instead of breaking down more specific skills. The PYP social skills include:

  • Accepting responsibility: taking on a completing tasks in an appropriate manner; being willing to assume a share of their responsibility
  • Respecting otherslistening sensitively to others; making decisions based on fairness & equality; recognizing others’ beliefs, viewpoints, religions, & ideas may differ from one’s own; stating one’s opinion without hurting others
  • Cooperatingworking cooperatively in a group; being courteous to others; sharing materials; taking turns
  • Resolving conflictlistening carefully to others; compromising; reacting reasonably to the situation; accepting responsibility appropriately; being fair
  • Group decision-makinglistening to others; discussing ideas; asking questions; working towards and obtaining consensus
  • Adopting a variety of roles: understanding what behavior is acceptable in a given situation & acting accordingly; being a leader in some circumstances, a follower in others

In breaking them down, it became clear that I’ve been sharing resources for all these skills all along. There is so much overlap among all the PYP essential elements, but I think this is particularly the case when it comes to social skills. Each of the other PYP essential elements may help students investigate & build up their own social skills in addition to the specific attitude, skill, or attribute.

So this week’s provocation is designed to think about the big picture of social skills as a whole, but know that if you are looking to hone in on the more specific skills listed above, you may find what you need in the complete list of provocations into the PYP essential elements, or even the complete list of all inquiry-based provocations on this site.

Resource #1: Family Rescues Whale Tangled In Net via The Dodo

Resource #2: Brene Brown on Empathy by The RSA (yes, this is a specific skill, but watch closely for multiple social skills here)

Resource #3: Kids Meet a Person with Cerebral Palsy via The Kid Should See This

Resource #4: ADA at iPark Museum of Art via The Kid Should See This

Resource #5: “We Found A Hat” by Jon Klassen

 

Resource #6: Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller

Provocation Questions:

  • How do social skills impact our relationships?
  • What are social skills?
  • How do we improve our social skills?
  • What is the impact of social skills on our lives? On our communities?
  • What is our responsibility to cultivate our social skills?
  • Are there different perspectives on what good social skills are? If so, what are they, and why do they exist?
  • How do social skills connect to collaboration?
  • How do social skills impact our ability to accomplish goals?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Preschool, Kinder-Prep & 3 Things Kids Need Most #TeacherMom

It’s January and I have a 3 year-old that will be 4 by September. Translation (according to modern society): I should be in a panic because preschool application deadlines are upon us. And of course, after preschool comes kindergarten, and we’re told that academic success in kindergarten corresponds with future earnings.

No pressure.

Yet, when it comes to all that kinder-prep frenzy, I learned the hard way that that pressure does very little to produce a desirable effect, and I have no wish to repeat the experience.

For the sake of my friends and acquaintances in the same stressful boat who feel their sanity hangs by a thread, I want to share a few thoughts once more on this kinder-prep phenomenon.

First, recognize that as a loving, involved parent, you are enough. The scarcity mindset comes from a place of fear — fear that there’s something out there that we don’t have enough of, and it is the deal-breaker between success and failure (for us and our children). But as Brene Brown wrote,

I thought of this same principle when I saw this lovely post from Kristina Kuzmic:

Of course, this NOT intended to be mean preschool isn’t valuable and even necessary for many families. Programs like Head Start play a particularly valuable role, providing support for children that may not have as many advantages.

What this does mean is that we should never underestimate the impact of a loving and involved parent. As I’ve shared before from one of our local university preschools,

“You parents are already doing a great deal to insure success in kindergarten for your youngster. You read to your children, you go on family outings, you model a love for learning, but most of all you are very involved in the lives of your children. This will make kindergarten a wonderful time for your child, and start him/her on the road to a good education.”

Second, recognize that excessive focus on the future robs us of today’s opportunities.

It’s wonderful to want to ensure our kids can face whatever their futures hold. But sometimes we should pause and ask ourselves: are we focusing so much on the future that we forget to focus on their current developmental needs?

In other words, is it about the developmental needs of a 3-4 year-old, or is it about fear for what they might not be ready for when they turn 5?

This fearful approach might include excessive academic drilling, worksheets, or other highly-marketed programs that guarantee hitting every “kindergarten readiness” checklist item. For the most part, rich social interactions are what preschoolers developmentally need most at this age — playing outside with other kids, helping out with siblings, etc. Incidentally, such interactions are the very things that will best prepare them for future success in school anyway.

Third, recognize the importance of letting your child take the lead. 

If your preschooler is indicating interest in learning to read, by all means, pursue that. But if she is resolute in her passion for dinosaurs, please don’t abandon that because you are stressed about kinder-prep checklists. Follow their curiosity, because that precious zeal for learning will serve them far longer than the ability to identify all 52 upper & lower-case letters on the first day of kindergarten (also, keep in mind that there are about a thousand ways to create rich learning experiences that revolve around dinosaurs).

Following our kids’ lead also involves a greater emphasis on self-regulation. Helping our kids develop skills in stress-management and expressing their feelings will also empower them to take ownership over their lives and learning.

One more disclaimer before closing. Speech delays and learning disabilities are absolutely real and parents should be on the look-out for signs and resources to provide their children the support they need. I just wonder if sometimes we start from a place of assuming there is something wrong if our kids are not yet interested in counting and shapes when they are 3.

As we look toward the beginning of formal education, let us do so in a manner that will cultivate curiosity, joy, and ownership.

Relevant posts related to this topic that might be of interest:

Recommended Books & Resources:

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto